When you hear someone talk about the carrot and the stick, your probably think of mules, or rabbits. The phrase is used to weigh the option of harsh disciplinary action versus the choice of providing motivation through some sort of reward. Nowadays in politics within Con County, many politicians use this phrase at staff meetings when they consider whether they should bribe or blackmail an opponent. Despite the obvious allusion, the origin of this expression in fact has nothing at all to do with mules and rabbits. It doesn't even have anything to do with real carrots and sticks; it has everything to do with chickens. Roosters, to be exact.
In 1837 in Greenwell, in the year of the infamous incident with the wild bull and the cattle stampede it caused, farmer John Langston found himself facing serious difficulties adapting to a life in a town where cattle farming had been banned. Believing that not much if any risk came with poultry farming, he decided to convert his cattle farm into a chicken farm. By the spring of 1839 he came to regret his decision, as his hens started to disappear one after the other. One night he caught sight of a fox dragging one of his remaining hens into the forest, but he failed to chase down the animal. Since he was afraid of dogs, he tried to rely on traps to keep the fox at bay, but the fox proved too cunning and observant to fall into any of them, and Mister Langston's hens kept on disappearing as the days went on.
In his desperation, he turned to the owner of another chicken farm for help. Daniel Kruger operated a very successful chicken farm since years before the cattle farm ban, and one of the reasons behind his success was his flock of fighting roosters. His two best combatants were named Carrot and Stick. For many years, the two have been the undisputed champions of cockfighting, a sport of considerable popularity in Greenwell at the time. When John Langston asked Daniel Kruger to lend him some of his fighting roosters to help chase off the fox, Mister Kruger lent him Carrot and Stick, and all he asked for in return was that Mister Langston lie in wait and watch the roosters fight the fox. Mister Kruger wanted to know which of the two roosters, Carrot or Stick, would fare better against the sneaky carnivore. Mister Langston agreed.
That night, the fox did not show up until 2 AM. John Langston found himself barely able to keep his eyes open, but when he heard the sounds of fighting his sleepiness instantly evaporated and he rushed to the barn. He found Carrot and Stick beating the unholy hell out of the fox. The two roosters had the fox cornered and they took turns plucking huge chunks of red and white fur from the forest predator. The fight went on for ten minutes until the roosters simply allowed the fox to scamper away, bleeding from dozens of wounds and limping. John Langston never saw the animal again, nor did any of his hens go missing ever again.
As for the great debate of whether Carrot or Stick was the better fighter, it was never decided. As far as John Langston could tell, the two roosters did equally well against the fox, which put a large smile on Daniel Kruger's face. The owner of the fighting roosters had offered the people of Greenwell to place bets on who would dominate the fight. `Who will kick more ass, Carrot or Stick?' he asked. He even put up a few posters around town asking the infamous question. Very few people bet on the contest ending in a draw, hence Mister Kruger earned himself a fortune through the bets.
Since then, the phrase `carrot or stick' took on a life of its own and evolved in its meaning, no doubt due to Mister Kruger's odd choice of naming one of his fighting roosters after a vegetable. His cockfighting business prospered for many years, until bullfighting took it over as the most popular sport in Greenwell, but even then his farm made a good profit on the fights between Carrot an Stick, which, for some reason, always ended in a draw, yet people kept paying good money to watch them. It is perhaps no surprise that Gerald Embers, Chairman of the Greenwell Bullfighting Organization, cites Daniel Kruger and his roosters as a huge inspiration for his own business practices.
Back To The Context >